Things to do

Beyond Charlotte City Limits

Just a short drive outside of Charlotte's city limits, you'll find high-speed thrills, exotic animals, scenic views, upscale vineyards and lots more.

Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery is just over an hour outside Charlotte.

One of the advantages of Charlotte is the city’s close proximity to mountains, vineyards and animal habitats, all within a few hours of driving. If you have the time to go exploring, here are some ideas for short daytrips and excursions, along with how long it will take you to get there from Charlotte’s city limits.

Less Than an Hour Away

U.S. National Whitewater Center – This popular outdoor recreation center is only about a 20-minute drive from Charlotte proper. You can easily spend an entire day rafting, hiking, zip lining and eating at one of the on-site restaurants, River’s Edge Bar & Grill, Pump House Biergarten or the Pizza Yacht. Many events are held here, from Olympic trials to live music shows. About 20 minutes away.

Crowders Mountain State Park / Kings Mountain – Fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing and more outdoor activities are available at these parks, just a short drive from Charlotte. About 45 minutes away.

Carowinds – On the border of North and South Carolina, this is the area’s biggest and best theme park. One of the most popular roller coasters is Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster. There’s also an adjacent water park, Carolina Harbor. About 25 minutes away.

Historic Brattonsville – Experience living history, including the African-American story, at this 775-acre Revolutionary War site. Explore the Bratton Plantation, owned by three generations of the Bratton family. About 55 minutes away.

Lake Norman – The largest man-made lake in the Carolinas, Lake Norman is a great spot to rent a boat, go out on the lake and enjoy a leisurely summer day. About 30 minutes away.

Reed Gold Mine – Kids and adults can enjoy panning for gold, taking guided tours of the restored underground tunnels and stamp mill, looking at gold and mining equipment in the visitor center, and watching a film on the North Carolina gold rush. A picnic area and trails on the property make it a perfect way to spend the whole day. About 40 minutes away.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden – This garden is beautifully landscaped, with 380 acres of fountains, paths and flowers. It also features an Orchid Conservatory glass house, seasonal displays, exhibits and special events along with classes on wildlife, photography, fine art, floral design and more. You can bring a picnic lunch and spend the day here. About 35 minutes away.

Historic Latta Plantation – This site is located in nearby Huntersville. Costumed interpreters, historic displays and hands-on activities show visitors what life was like for the planters, yeoman farmers and enslaved African Americans of the North Carolina backcountry in the early 19th century. See the home of James Latta, built in 1800, as well as original and replica outbuildings and historic farming practices and livestock. Regular events and workshops are offered. About 25 minutes away.

Carolina Raptor Center and Latta Equestrian Center – These popular attractions are located on the grounds of the Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve. Go horseback riding and see the bird of prey at the Raptor Center along with daily demonstrations. About 25 minutes away.

Lazy 5 Ranch – North of Charlotte, the Lazy 5 Ranch is a privately owned, drive-thru exotic animal park that offers a 3.5-mile safari, petting areas, a blacksmith shop, gift store, horse barn, playground and picnic areas. About 50 minutes away.  

Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge – This luxury hotel property in South Charlotte offers a great escape with a full spa and 18-hole championship golf course. About 20 minutes away.

Charlotte Motor Speedway and race shops – The speedway is in Concord, but you could spend all day touring the speedway and visiting local race shops, many of which host their own behind-the-scenes tours. Race shops include Michael Waltrip RacingDale Earnhardt Inc.Hendrick Motorsports, etc. About 20 minutes away.

1 - 2 Hours Away

Vineyards and Tours – Wineries and tastings are about1 hour-1 hour and 30 driving minutes away. If you go through a tour company, you can easily stop by several in one day. Popular vineyards include:

North Carolina Zoo – The zoo is on 500 acres with 1,100 animals and 40,000 plants along 5 miles of shaded pathways. There are multiple picnic areas, a playground, dining options and more. About 1 hour and 40 minutes away.

Chimney Rock Park – Another great hiking destination, this park features great views and a waterfall. About 2 hours away.

Dupont State Recreational Forest – Dupont State Recreational Forest is the home of more than 10,000 acres of forest, trails and waterfalls. About 2 hours away.  

Uwharrie National Forest – Just northeast of Charlotte lies 51,000 acres of camping, hiking, fishing, swimming and more at Uwharrie National Forest.  The forest is home to scenic trails, the Badin Lake Recreation Area, and several hunting and fishing areas. About 1 hour 20 and minutes away.

Linville Caverns – Near Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns features guided cave tours where visitors can see ancient stalactites and stalagmites. About 2 hours away.

2 - 3 Hours Away

Grandfather Mountain – The highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountain range and a globally recognized nature preserve, the mountain offers amazing 360-degree views and a mountaintop visitors center. Snap a photo of Forrest Gump Curve, take a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, or get up close and personal with cougars, bears and otters at the Wildlife Habitats attraction.  About 2 hours and 20 minutes away.

Sliding Rock – Channel your inner child and take the plunge down Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural rock slide with a 6-7-foot-deep pool at the base. Its chilly waters make it the perfect retreat for a hot summer day or for adventurers looking to make a splash.  Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. About 2 hours and 30 minutes away.

Blue Ridge Parkway – Touted as “America’s Favorite Drive,” Blue Ridge Parkway beckons visitors who can hop on the 469 mile parkway stretch from several access points outside of Charlotte. Travel north up U.S. Route 321, west to Interstate 26 or Interstate 40. About 2 hours-2 hours and 30 minutes away.

For more daytrip ideas outside Charlotte city limits, check out our Weekend Explorer series.